People all have different impressions of what it actually means to work from home. Some think it’s all just lounging in bed, binging TV shows, doing chores around the house, and watching the “work” fall by the wayside. That can certainly be what some days of working from home look like, but for anyone that wants to keep working from home, there needs to be some serious productivity now and then.
If you want to be sure you’re set up right to work from home, it’s fair to ask whether a laptop or a desktop computer will serve you better. But, each type of computer has its perks and drawbacks. We’ll explore various aspects of working from home and see how laptops and desktops fit into the picture.
So, whether you’re new to working from home or have been doing it for years and just want to optimize your setup, we’ve got the info you should take into consideration.
When you’re trying to get into your workday, it’s important for you to be able to get in the zone. A desktop work setup is going to more readily enable that.
Part of what makes a desktop less appealing is also what makes it ideal for work. It’s going to be in one spot all the time. Once it’s set up, it’s set. You’ll be able to get to work and have a consistent setup. If you have two monitors one day, you’ll have two monitors the next day.
That consistency makes it easier to have a more complete workstation. You can put a better keyboard, nice headphones, multiple monitors, a comfy chair, and whatever other creature comforts you want at your desk. From one day to the next, they’ll be right there, ready for you to work.
You won’t have to worry about spending a bunch of time getting your workstation set up at the start of each day, saving you a bit of time. Bonus points go to the ability to have one of the best monitors. Since you’ll be spending more time staring at a screen when you’re working from home, it’s good to do your eyes a favor and increase your screen space and font sizes – don’t strain looking at a small screen all day.
However, the desktop’s merits stem from one of its greatest detriments. After enough days in a row working from home, a single workspace can start to seem like a prison cell blended with a little solitary confinement.
A laptop frees you up from that. With a laptop, you can start your day in the kitchen, looking over emails while you brew coffee or prep some breakfast. You can go to your living room and spend time with your pets while you check the news. That’s a helpful way to avoid going stir crazy.
If the weather is nice, you can even take your laptop out on a porch/balcony or whatever semi-outdoor location you have available to you – a convenience not so easily afforded to a desktop setup.
And, of course, you can always set up your laptop in a desktop configuration. It might require a hub to connect a modern laptop to multiple monitors, a keyboard, a mouse, and all. But, once you’ve made those connections, your workstation can be just as good as any desktops with the added benefit that you can pick up and move whenever you need. When you do move, all your work will come with you, too.
Bonus points go to the laptop because you don’t even need to get out of bed to start your work day. While there may be psychological drawbacks to doing this regularly, it can be nice to get every last minute of sleep possible before needing to clock in for work.
Your work capabilities
In many ways, a desktop is going to exceed a laptop in capabilities. The larger form factor means you can stick a more powerful processor and graphics card in, you can add more RAM, and you can have substantially more storage. The front panel of a desktop alone tends to have more I/O than a laptop, and then the motherboard back panel can easily quadruple that.
The anchored nature of a desktop also makes it a more suitable device to keep plugged into the internet over an Ethernet cable, giving you a more consistent, high-speed connection.
All of that combines to make the desktop PC more capable for high-tab-count browsing, any visual work with photo or video editing, or design work. So, when it comes to sheer performance and connectivity, a desktop setup is going to score an easy win.
But, performance isn’t all the matters. If you just need a window into your workspace to interact with your coworkers, a laptop may have a few advantages over a desktop. While you can add a webcam and microphone to your desktop PC, odds are good that your laptop already has both built-in. When you’re working from home, those can be a big bonus.
Being able to get some face time with co-workers, even if it’s just on a screen, can be a lot more productive than just chatting on Slack all day. And, when it comes to cabin fever and social isolation, a video chat is a much better supplement than any phone call or group chat.
Your ability to focus
The point of working from home, of course, is actually to work. To that end, it matters that you’re able to be productive. Unfortunately, there’s a landslide of distractions you can get buried in at home, whether it be family and roommates or all the things you needed to do around the house but put off because you weren’t quite bored enough to do them before.
Neither desktops or laptops have any guaranteed advantages over the other when it comes to focusing. A desktop can keep you away from other distractions, like your TV. And, family might better recognize that you’re trying to work when you’re at a desktop as opposed to sitting on the couch with a laptop.
But, anchoring yourself to a desktop computer can also be a problem for focus. If the room your desktop is in suddenly gets noisy, whether from outside noise or roommates coming in, you might lose the ability to focus. If you’re using a laptop in the same situation, you may be able to pick up and move to a quieter location.
There are a few other things that may be worth thinking about when you’re working from home. While a desktop may offer more raw power, that power doesn’t come from nowhere. A desktop PC will likely rack up a higher power bill at the end of the day than your typical laptop will. So, unless your work needs the extra power, you may not benefit from using a desktop.
Even if you need the power of your desktop, you don’t have to anchor yourself to it. You can enjoy the portability benefits of a laptop while still using your desktop’s internals by employing a remote connection to your desktop. And, if your laptop and desktop are on the same network, you should have exceptionally low latency for that remote connection.
Another perk your laptop will have over a desktop is one that hopefully won’t come up often. In the event of a power outage, your laptop can keep running on its battery for some time. That means you won’t suddenly lose all of your work. A desktop would shut down straight away if the power went out. And, even with an uninterruptible power supply in place, your desktop likely won’t stay powered up for very long compared to your laptop if the electricity goes out.
And if your internet cuts out, forcing you to run down the street to use a cafe’s Wi-Fi, you can’t bring your desktop along with you.